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End of Thomas signals a fresh start

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Alastair Eykyn | 22:27 UK time, Wednesday, 2 November 2011

After a stormy few months at Twickenham, the departure of Martyn Thomas represents a lifting of the clouds.

Ignore the official statement about "spending more time with the family", and the reference to the end of his contract. Thomas was forced out by the Rugby Football Union 12-man management board of which he was a part. Without doubt, they were under huge pressure from the clubs to remove him at the earliest opportunity.

He will remain in place until 16 December, by which date a new chief executive will have been appointed. The current chief financial officer Stephen Brown will step in as the interim CEO, until the new person takes charge.

Thomas will also relinquish his other high profile roles, as the RFU representative on the International Rugby Board, the Six Nations Committee, and the board of European Rugby Cup.

Most significantly of all, he will lose his post as the chairman of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, to be held in England. Thomas had worked hard to secure the hosting rights for the RFU. It will be a bitter pill for him to swallow.

The 67-year-old was at the top of English rugby for six turbulent years. In his previous role as chairman, he was the chief architect of the unsavoury dismissal of Brian Ashton as head coach in 2008. More recently he had become an all-powerful figure at the RFU, but his critics argued that his determination to cling onto power was rotting the system.

The number of his opponents grew alarmingly over the course of this summer, many of whom had once been his close colleagues. During this period he manufactured the sacking of John Steele, just nine months after appointing him as chief executive.

Chairman since 2005, Thomas had survived in his position in the past, but the axe finally came down on his head. Photo: Getty

He followed that with a breathtaking decision to threaten the RFU's chief disciplinary officer Judge Jeff Blackett with a defamation suit, following critical findings of his own role in the Steele episode.

Many believed that if Thomas had stayed in his post, it would have paralysed the RFU until well into the new year, at a time when they desperately need to be finding stability and direction. If the board had not demanded his departure, the clubs would have called a special general meeting, and forced through a vote of no confidence. He had survived two of them already.

Thomas was also the subject of an investigation to establish if he should face disrepute charges, following the Steele farce. England's poor World Cup campaign both on and off the field tarnished his reputation still further.

So what are the ramifications of his demise? The review into England coach Martin Johnson's three-and-a-half year tenure - a review that Thomas had personally commissioned from former international Fran Cotton - will now be scrapped. The proposal had attracted a number of vocal opponents. Cotton had already passed judgement on the Johnson regime in radio and television interviews, and the players were refusing to cooperate with it.

Now Rob Andrew's internal review will feed into the one done by the Professional Game Board (a body combining the RFU, the Premiership and Championship clubs, and the players' union, the PRA). It seems the findings of these two will form the basis of a decision to retain - or to dispense with - Martin Johnson and his coaching staff.

The RFU has also committed itself to another review - this one "an independent review to ensure the best performance systems are in place going towards RWC 2015". It will be convened after the conclusion of the Professional Game Board review. Its make-up and terms of reference will be confirmed at a later date.

So Johnson is no closer to knowing his fate as England manager, and neither are his coaching staff. But the overbearing figure of Thomas will be gone by Christmas.

And the landscape is different now.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I go to Public School. Way.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hip,hip,hurray

  • Comment number 3.

    How does this kind of regime exist so publicly? I mean at least at Oxford, in Parliament, the media and finance we have learnt to pretend and mask the fact that the same people runs things.

  • Comment number 4.

    beshocked I'm saying Johnson should stay for a few reasons
    1. The progress is there. England were Six nations champions this year. OK no grand slam but no one can deny they were the best team in it.
    2. England have seen so many chop and changes to the managers in the last 8 years we need a solid period of stability at the top.
    3. Johnson made mistakes but which manager at the world cup didn't? It's how he learns from here that counts.

    Now England had a poor world cup true but no top 10 team, aside from New Zealand and their final was't good, can say they had a good world cup. England have least realised their mistakes and are looking how to rectify this. Not sitting around blaming referees and bad luck.

    Look I'm not extending our loyalty to Johnson to Borthwickian proportions but to junk a guy after losing 1 game (which effectively is what happened at the world cup) and a couple of poor performances would be short sighted. Let's see how the six nations goes and call it then.

  • Comment number 5.

    What I would do:-

    Promote Stephen Brown from COO to CEO. Reason: He's not an ex rugby player. He'll run the place on a business footing and run it properly. Brief CV: http://www.rfu.com/News/2011/March/News%20Articles/160311_Stephen_Brown.aspx .

    I would politely but firmly get rid of Martin Johnson. He's had his chance and he blew it, twice. Looking at the stats, Johnson's games won statistic of 55.26% is better than Brian Ashton and Andy Robinson only. In contrast, Graham Henry's is an eye watering 85.4%. His efforts as a player will not be forgotten - he is one of the best locks of all time - but enough is enough. A good manager he does not make. England needs an iron disciplinarian to stamp out the languid over familiarity and laissez faire attitude that clearly exists. The 2011 world cup squad simply didn't want the Webb Ellis cup badly enough.

    Get rid of Rob Andrew, who doesn't know what he's doing and seems to have his nose far too firmly in the trough. What exactly has he done apart from the deal with the premiership to get more training time for English players? I see no other notable achievements. Steve Grainger shouldn't be given the ownership of elite rugby though - he has too much to do with looking grass roots rugby as it is.

    I would leave Sophie Goldschmidt alone - given England is currently on a downward spiral she'll have her work cut out to keep revenues up (nobody wants to see a losing team that much so ticket prices may have to come down). That said, if she is responsible for initially pricing the authentic shirt at an outrageous £95 (http://store.rfu.com/stores/rfu/products/product_details.aspx?pid=89939%29 she should maybe be asked to reapply for her job too because it would appear someone hasn't realised that there's a recession on.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think only one cloud has been lifted with this departure.

    There remains an even darker cloud in the guise of Rob Andrew - the arch survivor and protector of personal interests above all else.

    There should be a complete clear out including Martin Johnson. The best teams start a new regime immediately following a world cup, whether successful or not.

    Not so England, hampered by the RFU who are so busy playing musical chairs that the fact we are hosting the next world cup seems to have passed them by. If we wait until after the Six Nations that's already six months gone!

    It beggars belief.

  • Comment number 7.

    Well December 16th is my birthday so Martyn Thomas leaving the RFU altogether will be the best birthday present I could have hoped for! I have to say that I disagree with all the negative comments about Rob Andrew though. He has gone in and done everything the job description says he should and actually got results. Our age group teams are performing well at international level and could be argued to be only second to NZ. Our U20s made their World Cup final and gave the baby blacks a good test. He has also been in the unfortunate position of being the lightning rod for the press, the guy who is wheeled out to explain every time the wheels have fallen off our poor excuse for a senior side. He was not responsible for sacking Ashton, the hiring of Martin Johnson or the baffling inability to sack the most inaffective forwards coach in world rugby after EIGHT YEARS. He was responsible for brokering the deal that finally sorted out the club vs. country row that bedevilled the English national team for so long. He is one of the few people in the RFU who actually manages to acheive anything when he goes to work in the morning.

  • Comment number 8.

    This is a breath of fresh air but only a start. The report states that the appointment of a new CEO is well under way so would like to know how that process was started (probaly under Thomas so the credibility of it nees to be questioned) and it should be made public about who is responsible for the final decision. Clearly that person needs to be given responsibility for the next steps so the Andrew positon and the Johnson position are likely to be on hold until the new CEO is in place.

    Personally I think the roles are fudged and should be combined regardless of the current incumbents. Noone is clear what Andrew is responsible for and he should go. the fact that his role was dispensed with and he was offered a lesser role and took it suggests he is only there for the sake of being there or he would have resigned on principle, seems like he doesn't have many.

    Johnson is slightly different as I am sure he has been hamstrung by many of the political machinations going on around him. I believe he could still be the Management leader for the England team but only if he could demonstrate learning some lessons from the last 3 years e.g. he is given a blank sheet and appoints and new coaching structure to go forward with, sadly I am unsure he can sweep away what he is working with for something better because he is a very loyal and occasionally stubborn (not always a bad thing when he is the ultimate decision maker) character. I would like to think for instance that Johnno is currently lobbying to remain in post with arguments put forward like Shaun Edwards has left Wasps and is soon to be out of contract with Wales, let me go and persuade him to join the England set up now. Maybe a pipe dream but the kind of positive stance we need to see

    It has been a depressing time during the last 7 years for anyone connected with English rugby culminating in the poor performances on and off the field during RWC, now is the time to clean up the act and go forward. Hopefully the Andrew review and more importantly the Professional Game Board review will be made public very quickly and everyone can go from there.

    we live in high hopes

  • Comment number 9.

    One down, several more to go...

    Hopefully Andrew will go next, only he knows what he does other than watch his own back.

    Malli in for MJ, surely thats a no brainer?? Get Henry in with a broad overview of English rugger from grass roots up with a mandate to improve skills and systems.

  • Comment number 10.

    What is important is that the right thing is done across the board - Martyn Thomas needed to go, I think that Robs Andrew's role is unclear and should go. I believe that Martin Johnson if given the chance to stay and the support required will become better and stronger, we have invested a lot in him, and he in the game, we should not throw that out. Let's get Simon Halliday, an astute businessman to run the show, and get Henry to support and mentor Johnson for the next two seasons.

  • Comment number 11.

    Many of sports governing bodies struggle with the pro game vs grassroots amateur game dynamic. The RFU needs to be split into 3.

    1. It's a business, it needs a strong CEO, with charisma, communication skills, they need to be politically astute and tough (thick skinned), the RFU is hosting the 2015 RWC - this is a big project and work starts now!

    2. It needs somebody to oversee the professional game in England and support England in any negotiations with the IRB, Six Nations and relationship with the wider rugby nations. A current Director of Rugby from a premiership club or perhaps an overseas person. The England Head Coach would report into this person

    3. Someone needs to run grassroots rugby - this needs to be someone that understands the grassroots game and realises that this underpins eveything the RFU do, they need to scrap Englands obsession with age group rugby and put JOY back into playing rugby for ALL youngsters.

    I don't think Rob Andrew can survive, I hope MJ still has a role to play with the elite squad. Whatever happens the elite squad needs to be dressed down over the off field antics of some of the players and every player that wears the England shirt must understand that wearing the red rose is the highest reward in English rugby and it carries responsibility 24 hrs a day.

  • Comment number 12.

    Oh, and apart from Henry mentoring Johnson, Shaun Edwards should be welcomed into the fold ...

  • Comment number 13.

    Congratulations must go to Judge Blackett for his resolve in addressing the issues and leading to the current state. The 'old farts' are hopefully being replaced by a new breed switched on to the tasks facing the Union.

  • Comment number 14.

    Hurrah for getting rid of the first of the blazered duffers ,get rid of the rest including Andrew and appoint either Jim Mallinder or Nick Mallett and lets stop looking back to 2003 its history so no more talk of Woodward please.

  • Comment number 15.

    Surely the most important point is who picks, trains and manages the squad? Most of the 'old farts' were involved at some level in the RFU back in 2003. Most of them were known not to like Woodward and would have queued up to stick the knife in his back at the earliest opportunity - but he was an effective leader and co-ordinator who knew what he wanted. We have managed to be very good in the past whoever sits at Twickenham- so lets make sure we get the right man running the team with a less 'one-eyed' back-up management team.

    MJ might well have been the right man had he had the right back-up team. Not knocking the ability of his team but they are all 'his men' - far too cosy! If MJ stays, and I'm not sure he should, he needs some strong characters with proper credentials - call for McGeechan and Sean Edwards!

  • Comment number 16.

    I agree with Simon at 12. I think MJ should leave gracefully, but with guiadance Henry / Woodward / Mallet etc, I think there's a place for MJ as a figurehead leader. Edwards is a no braner.

  • Comment number 17.

    Haha Lastking still as deluded as ever. Johnson staying!! Give me strength. Do you want another four years of going absolutely nowhere. Yes other managers made mistakes but the wilkinson/flood debacle was proof enough of complete and under tactical incompetence. Everyone could see it was a disaster waiting to happen, except him...

  • Comment number 18.

    Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
    Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead. Ok he's not dead (nor do I wish death on anyone BTW before any complaints). But finally Martyn Thomas is gone. And good riddance. He was a man loved the money and power that came with professionalism, but behaved like he was running an amateur village team in the 1960s (no offence intended towards amateur village teams from the 1960s).

    Now hopefully there will be a clean up of the RFU. Then we can all get back to doing what this organisation was actually set up for: the development of rugby union at all levels with the pinnacle of the organisation being the England first XV.

  • Comment number 19.

    He is a microcosm of everythuing that is wrong with this country. An anachronistic, dogmatic old duffer that even looks like an evil old schoolmaster from Greyfriars School. England is a 21st century country, characters like him belong to a bygone era and the past and good riddance to them.

    Unfortunately we've got a similar set of public schoolboy plebs ruining our economy and country in entirety right. The UK has got to move on as a country and dump these elitists who have held it back for far too long...

  • Comment number 20.

    Unfortunately we've got a similar set of public schoolboy plebs ruining our economy and country in entirety right. The UK has got to move on as a country and dump these elitists who have held it back for far too long...

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    We had a chance to get rid of them between 1997 and 2010. But Blair and then Brown let them continue running the show behind the scenes. Now their posh buddies are back in government they are continuing to run the show. The problem is that no matter who vote for, the same old people get the important jobs. And I don't see that changing even if Labour get back in.

    Now back to the rugby....................

  • Comment number 21.

    @15 - Good point Steve. I have to agree with the point that the team was still well run despite the board. But I also think that Woodward left before he had finished doing the task of re-building the team and a future legacy due to the old duffers. Woodward also had to jump through hoops and upset a lot of people to do his job effectively.

    Considering that environment he had to work in, I actually admire his successes as England coach even more.

  • Comment number 22.

    Magicdarkshadow the so called 81 who want us to leave the EU and throw Britain to the wolves are testament to the incredulity of these people.

    Agreed back to the rugby. England coaches what about that super 16 coach Hammet who is having a big clearout of ABs stars at the hurricanes. He's certainly setting the cat among the pigeons down there and nothing if not controversial, but would tick the freshblood boxes with his approach. Would certainly signal the end for the 30 plus generation...

  • Comment number 23.

    I am in part repeating a view expressed herein before by several, including myself. I am also reflecting my personal observations of some forty years in industry.

    It is almost always the case that an organisation will look to newly appoint someone similar to itself - a good example is in professional football where we see the merry-go-round of mostly failed managers - it's keeping you in your comfort zone. The other thing is that, for example, you don't necessarily need to be an ex-pilot to successfully run an airline; in certain cases that can be the last thing you need.

    I'm already seeing 'Ah - let's bring back old ...... old ..... did a good job at ..... bring him in' etc and of course that is all part of the blogs. I just hope however that the 'New RFU' sits down, professionally assesses where it is, where it wants to be and what it need to do to get there and moves forward from that. A simple, properly thought out mission statement would be a good start; that will then drive everything. And I hope they take the right amount of time - take a month on the mission statement and involve all appropriate Rugby bodies and organisations if necessary.

    As English (Rugby Supporters) we accept that we are here for everyone to have a pop at us; by the right-thinking much of this is good natured and we can give as well as take. But when you look at us over the last few years - the parade of Woodward, Andrew, Ashton, Robinson, Steele, Johnson and lately the performance and perceptions of England from this last RWC - you'd have to say we've really set ourselves up; it's quite shameful really.

    I cannot concede that properly lead England will be up there with the very best, all of the time. COME ON RFU - DON'T LET US DOWN

  • Comment number 24.

    Correction to 23
    I cannot concede that properly lead England will be NOT up there with the very best, all of the time. COME ON RFU - DON'T LET US DOWN

  • Comment number 25.

    I notice a few posts mentioning Sean Edwards as an ideal candidate for a new-look England coaching team. Please leave him alone. He's happy with Wales. He would improve England no end. As a follower of rugby generally, I would welcome that. As a die-hard Welsh supporter, I would hate it. Please leave him alone. He is part Welsh - he shares the same surname as Gareth! He's got to stay with Wales.

  • Comment number 26.

    Further to other comments about Sean Edwards and his suitability for a role in a new England coaching set-up, as I understand it his most notable achivements have always been primarily around defence (Wasps, Wales and to a lesser degree Lions). In spite of various complaints as to their performance, I don't recall at any time over the last number of years any significant complaints about the number of tries England have conceded. Equally I don't think Edwards covered himself in any great glory as head coach of Wasps. Therefore why involve him, and in what role? Fix the parts that need fixed and don't be seduced the lure of the name without actually thinking through what expertise they bring. Surely this is what has been shown to happen with Martin Johnson's appointment.

  • Comment number 27.

    Johnno - Forwards Coach
    Rowntree - Scrummage
    Shaun Edwards - Defensive / Fitness Coach
    Jim Mallinder - Attack and Backs

    Manager - Sir Clive

    Keep it all English . These 5 could do the lot . End of story .

  • Comment number 28.

    CotlandswickCrusader

    Would agree except I would have Cockerill as scrum coach and Mallinder as Backs/attack and coach.

    Would also employ Jo Frost as behavioral coach/Discipline officer

  • Comment number 29.

    Why keep it all English? We need the best. If that means English coaches then all well and good but let's not limit ourselves. We need someone who has the ability to look at the young talent available and nurture it to fit into a playing philosophy that works. The obvious example at international level would be Dingo Deans. He came into the job on day one and saying right- if you're good enough you're old enough. Now quality players like Genia, Cooper, O'Connor and Beale all have four years and a world cup of experience under their belts, yet they are still along way off their prime. It took a while for it all to click, but they have now won a Tri Nations title and if they can find a couple of decent props they will be unstoppable. If any manager of England could do what he has done with players like Marler, Joseph, Trinder, Farrell, Ford etc. we could be in a very happy place.

  • Comment number 30.

    The reality is that England need to look south, but that may bring a host of problems in itself, because a matter of fact tell it like it is Antipodean is hardly going to fit in at the RFU are they? Likewise Edwards I cant see a down to earth, no-nonsense northern boy like him hitting it off with the public schoolboys at HQ...

  • Comment number 31.

    While I don't really have a view on Thomas, personally (though do the question for this unnecessary gesture just a few weeks before he was due to leave anyway), I am extremely disappointed with the scrapping of the Fran Cotton review.

    Turkeys do not vote for Xmas - why on earth allow Rob Andrew, a man whose own role in the RFU should surely be heavily questioned, and who was responsible for appointing Martin Johnson, be allowed to conduct the review - surely there is a crying need for an independent authoritative committee to be performing this role?

  • Comment number 32.

    The appointment of Jonno as coach was always a going to be a gamble, given his lack of experience. Hopefully, now that the people who made that gamble are on the way out the RFU will be able to admit its mistake.

    England need, above anything else, a long term vision that the entire set-up can get behind. I believe the best way to do that is by appointing a head coach/manager with vision and experience and allow him to select the coaches underneath him, rather than appoint people willy-nilly. Someone from outside the existing RFU setup, whether english or not, is essential.

    I can't claim any great insight into Shaun Edwards mindset, but given the World Cup that Wales had, there must surely be a strong temptation to stay in Cardiff and finish what he and Gatland have started in 2015.

  • Comment number 33.

    "Johnno - Forwards Coach
    Rowntree - Scrummage
    Shaun Edwards - Defensive / Fitness Coach
    Jim Mallinder - Attack and Backs

    Manager - Sir Clive

    Keep it all English . These 5 could do the lot . End of story ."

    I'd like to see Sir Clive back. Last thing we heard from him on rugby was as he slid out of the departure lounge at Auckland airport defeated and humiliated.

    So in that regard he probably has more in common now with MJ than ever before.

    I recall his parting remark was that GH was "not a great coach" because he'd never won a world cup.

    It'd be nice to have him back so that now that GH has completed his CV, maybe SCW could work on the many, many things that elluded him and prevent him from being considered a "great" coach/manager.

  • Comment number 34.

    On the Shaun Edwards front I think he's looking at pastures new. Can't say I've got a great insight into it but he's left Wasps now, hasn't agreed a new contract with Wales and after all the hard work he put in and Wales still having a poor world cup he may well have had enough. He may well be holding out for a role in the England set up, may go South, may be keeping an eye on what Henry does hoping to be matched up with him and I wouldn't even rule out a return to league.

  • Comment number 35.

    At last, some degree of sanity has prevailed. But I am reminded of the old joke 'What do you call 500 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start'. This is just a good start. Other heads need to roll - not least the clowns who allowed Thomas to get away with it for so long. Roll on that governance review and we shall see whether it has teeth.

    And for all those wishing for a return by Sir Clive - remember the old adage 'never go back'. I think it would be asking for a disaster. I do think Johnson should go - he may make a better forwards coach (though as I understand it he doesn't actually have a coaching qualification - is this correct?) and may work as manager better under a mentor like Henry, but I cannot see someone with his degree of pride accepting a demotion, so better he goes (along with the attack and forwards coaches). Great if Shaun Edwards is given a role, and Mallender would be my choice for head coach.

  • Comment number 36.

    Oh , and a P.S. - The Cotton Review always looked suspect to me. Why did Thomas initiate it when there was already a review that included other stakeholders? Because he wanted something he could more easily influence? The fact that Cotton pre-empted his own review by rubbishing Johnson publicly tends to support the view that Cotton's real job was to pave the way for Sir Clive's return, which Thomas has clearly always wanted.

  • Comment number 37.

    30 EalingWelsh

    Thanks for your concise thoughts. Although once again you display that peculiar "thing" that you have about public schoolboys and "The South"!!!!!!

    Do you secretly wish that you were a public schoolboy? Are you secretly embarrassed by the fact that you are a public schoolboy. Is this a Welsh obsession? It comes out most days from some embittered individual somewhere...either from some clapped out old class-warrior or, worse, someone who sounds like they should think about squeezing out of the closet!

    I hope that England spread the net wide and pull together a new coaching team that can bring England's youngsters to their full potential. Sadly, I don't think that our problems end at the RFU. It's a shame that we can't have an inquiry into why we need to have such a corrosively negative sports media? The brightest young talent gets ground to dust in the face of such nit-picking negativity. If only we could share in some of the uncritical, warm & fuzzy write-ups afforded to Wales who, inexplicably still reside several places below in England in the rankings!

    PS: Take a look out of the window. Last time I checked, Ealing was still in the heart of the hated and despised South. I'm surprised that you can bring yourself to live there!

  • Comment number 38.

    Anglophone...
    Rugby Union in England, Scotland and Ireland is predominantly within the fee paying school sector.
    Not entirely sure about the IRFU or RFU, but the SRU has certainly been down through the years perpetuating the old school tie inner circle to the detriment of Scottish rugby. Having said that all the issues within English and Scottish rugby is just not down to the elite attitude of the sport.
    Consecutive governments in the UK over the last thirty years have slowly eroded at schools sports for one reason and another.
    Most certainly agree with you on the English media who for whatever reason are hell bent on building up young sporting talent and then systematically wrecking them on and off the field.

  • Comment number 39.

    Porridge times, So public schools take rugby seriously in England, Scotland and Ireland should we attack them for it? Would you rather have the likes of Wayne Rooney and Tevez being the stars of rugby instead of the likes of BOD or Jonny Wilkinson?

    I didn’t go to any posh school but I play rugby with lads that did and I really don’t have a problem with it. Not when I look at the morons on the next field playing soccer who are apparently 'real' sportsmen because they play a 'working class' sport.

    As for Scottish rugby being all old tie brigade, try telling that to Jim Telfer (Sheppard’s son) or JJ (dairy farmer) or Geech (miners son). Scottish rugby is a game played in the borders and that’s where its strongest. The SRU should forget playing in empty grounds in Glasgow and Edinburgh and move the game back to its very proud heartland

  • Comment number 40.

    @33 thegreyghost: Are you seriously suggesting Clive Woodward was not a great coach/manager? Shouldn't really expect anything less!

    We need PE teachers at school to understand how to coach rugby. I used to work in a school and happened to observe a lesson where a PE teacher was trying to teach rugby. He was doing an awful job. He jsut did not get rugby or how to get the kids involved in it. Hence I imagine most of the kids at that school had a negative view of rugby. If this is the same case across schools in england then it is a shame as lots of kids will be put off the game for all the wrong reasons!

    I hope what ever the decision it is made quickly!

  • Comment number 41.

    I think some people are getting in a muddle; especially no. 37. There is no such thing as a public school in Wales...

  • Comment number 42.

    Porridge

    I think that you're oversimplifying. I would agree that rugby union is a "middle class" sport in some enclaves and predominates at fee paying schools. The idea that it is exclusive to these segments is however completely wrong.

    I live in the South West and club rugby is played by all strata of society. You'll find clubs in the poshest parts of Cheltenham and the roughest parts of Bristol and all stations in between. My own club contains a sweep of players from the kids from the estate to the sons of the wealthy and, by and large, it's very harmonious.

    If I had a criticism, it would be that the scouts who seek out promising young players for better things don't really stray too far from a handful of clubs and major schools. Lord knows how much real talent is left to wither. All the same, I'm willing to bet that happens everywhere.

    Let's give the public schoolboy thing a rest shall we? Repeating it endlessly won't make it true!

  • Comment number 43.

    Surely Rugby used to jsut be a public school thing, but more and more it is branching out of this, and that has to be a good thing!

  • Comment number 44.

    @38 Porridge_times

    Rugby Union in England, Scotland and Ireland is predominantly within the fee paying school sector.


    Absolute tosh, in my opinion to English rugby. Come to Cornwall, where you play rugby in every state school, regardless. Maybe 100 years ago but not for the last 30 yrs as I can attest.
    Maybe, fee paying schools dominate because they can attract the best coaches but that does not mean that others don't play rugby.
    Hell, go to Redruth and see how many "fee paying" boys goes to that club or go to any other club in Cornwall.
    Just simply not true and a silly old-fashioned sterotype.

  • Comment number 45.

    I have just spent 4 weeks staying at a old playing/Pysio mate of mine in Auckland. He has worked for top clubs in both Scotland and England and of course NZ....

    His view is that the "old public School" thing still exists in Scotland far more than it does in England. That is also my experience at least of England so yes lets put that old old stereotype to bed ...speaking of such things good night one and all.....

  • Comment number 46.

    Porridge times, So public schools take rugby seriously in England, Scotland and Ireland should we attack them for it?

    No not at all. My issue is not with the schools more so that fact that SRU and the powers be do not try hard enough to breach the world of the round ball.

  • Comment number 47.

    Anglophone your assertion that I've an antipathy for the south is way off the mark. You're correct I live in West London, married to a half Isle of Wight/Australian girl.

    I'm not anti public school remotely, but I am pro-meritocracy and it saddens me that so many of the southern English people in my part of London (despite living in the richest city in Europe) are resigned by the class culture to living uneconomically active, low aspirational lives on council estates and so many British Institutions (including the RFU) are controlled by an establishment.

  • Comment number 48.

    Excelllent opportunity for England to go forward now. Forget what nationalities the coaches and management team are. Just get the best men in to manage things. How on earth is Rob Andrew still there? Please dont mention Sir Clive. Doesnt anyone remember the 2005 Lions Tour and what a complete mess was made of that? Go back and look at the points differences in the tests - embarrassing!
    Talk of having MJ as the forwards coach is now out - demotion wont suit him.
    All change please!

  • Comment number 49.

    Gaz, Woodward would surely be great in a role overseeing the lot rather than a direct role with the team. The Lions tour was a disaster relying too much on Englishmen but still wasn't helped by our best player being assaulted and ruled out of the series early on.

  • Comment number 50.

    Thrashball, I am not sure if SCW still has the reputation that he had in 2003. Would the coaching/management team take him seriously? I would worry in "overseeing" that he appoints lots of strategists who know nothing of the game and end up killing England's chances.

  • Comment number 51.

    I think the reputation is there and the respect for what he achieved overall. I think the timing is still not there though as I think he stated that he wanted to see the olympics through. There are plenty of options other than Woodwadr though; I just hope they get it right this time as although he's done ok everyone was suprised that Johnson got it last time.

  • Comment number 52.

    Porridge, the round ball game in Scottish inner cities will never be dented by rugby. Its too tribal and too sectarian, and I never understood why Scottish rugby decided to move its 2 pro regions to Glasgow and Edinburgh to play in large empty grounds when it should have stayed in the borders where rugby is even now played at a high level and they would have played at smaller but full grounds enjoyed by real rugby fans.

  • Comment number 53.

    "Let's give the public schoolboy thing a rest shall we? Repeating it endlessly won't make it true!"

    Importantly, it is still perceived by many in England to be the sport of the privileged and it is this fact that is still holding back it's development. Many kids here in 'Middle England' would not be introduced to rugby because of parental (mainly working class) antipathy towards the game: if a kid shows sporting talent he is far more likely to end up playing for one of the numerous football clubs hereabouts (rugby clubs are few and far between). In South Wales, rugby has traditionally been the 'sport of the people', and thus has not suffered from perceived elitism as it does in some parts of England. The general demise of the grammar schools, attended by boys from all backgrounds, has also hindered development IMO.

  • Comment number 54.

    I still suspect that there is a bit of a skew between football and rugby union here. My son plays both football and rugby and the conversation on the touchline is very different between the two.

    Is this because State schools don't really have sports teams any more and therefore kids going to state schools wanting to play some form of sport join the more prevalent football clubs and the kids going to private schools, which do have sports teams, get more exposure to rugby ( and thus the cycle repeats itself )?

  • Comment number 55.

    Panama:

    Agree with you cycle theory, and I believe it is going to very difficult to break. My son started playing for the local football club at an early age (5/6 years), because it was within walking distance of our home, whereas the nearest rugby club is about 20 minutes drive away - no brainer for a sporty lad with no bias towards either game. Recently he asked if he could play rugby, and I told him that since he will be attending secondary school next year he will be able to do that from then. Note he will not be introduced to rugby until about the age of 11 in comparison to football from 5/6. Effectively the kids are already committed to football before they are introduced to rugby!

  • Comment number 56.

    Bucks Welsh

    Sounds like we have sons of similar age. The problem is that when your son gets to secondary school, in all likelihood he will be exposed to a few lessons of rugby and maybe a couple of fixtures in the term. State schools, with the exception of football just provide "tasters" of what the system defines as "peripheral sports". Even in fee paying schools, despite all the talk, kids will play for the few weeks of September to early December with maybe about 8 - 10 fixtures. These schools will then tend to play hockey in the Spring and cricket in the summer.

    If your son wants to develop in the game then he will certainly have to join a club who play from September to late March. A 20 minute drive doesn't sound too bad and well worth it if it is a good friendly setup. Beware ego-festivals and thuggish coaches though. Get some references.

    As for having to decide one way or t'other? Many of the lads in our local rugby club play rugby on Sunday mornings and football on Sunday afternoons. It is possible if you don't mind them sleeping through school on Mondays.

  • Comment number 57.

    47 EalingWelsh

    There you go again!

    I couldn't agree more that poverty of ambition in this country is a greater problem than actual poverty itself, however that is defined.

    The thing is though that poverty of ambition is hardly confined to the "oppressed lower orders" of West London. It's absolutely everywhere! It's part of the human condition. You'll find it in spades wherever you look, be it Liverpool, the West Midlands, Scotland, and even South Wales. The big difference though is that, in many places, poverty of ambition can be disguised as victimisation by some malign external force, bent on oppressing the masses and thwarting all opportunity. You hear it every day.

    In West London, it's hard to invoke regional antipathy or lack of opportunity, so poverty of ambition is exactly what it is with no excuses. The ugly truth is that most people are perfectly happy with it! Get over it...it's life!

  • Comment number 58.

    Under SCW we were the best team in the world, we won the world cup and had a set up that became the benchmark for international rugby. To me you would be crazy to ignore that particularly as we seem to have adopted the standard English mantra of just turn up and do our best. I think Woodward is a facilitator his strength would be creating an environment that breeds excellence and not being afraid to tread new ground in the pursuit of it. That sort of environment with people like Mallinder and Edwards I think would do the business.

  • Comment number 59.

    1404 Days, 18 Hours, 22 Minutes, 09 Seconds till the next work cup starts, so what ever is decided, needs to be done sooner rather than waiting till Jan 15.

    If MJ stay's, then it time for new coaches, if MJ goes, then a whole new approach is needed. The amount of people, that are currently dropping hints, that they wanted to be involved or have been mentioned, is staggering. Please don't look back, look forward, regardless of nationalities. Best qualified person for the job.

  • Comment number 60.

    Anglophone

    I believe I commented about university being wasted on you in a previous blog. Apologies it apparently was not judging by that last post.You should run for PM.

  • Comment number 61.

    Buckwelsh

    Don't worry about starting him off at 11 - if he can run and catch a ball and doesn't mind a bit of biff he'll be fine.

    I played League as a youngster ( the top code of rugby in my part of South Auckland ) then switched to football, my brothers did the same but later although one switched to rugby union whilst still playing football. The other brother went over to rugby union in his 40s!!

    The more sports the merrier - each sport helps the other develop. Mind you, that's a lot of fetching and carrying for a parent.

    It's a pity this isn't more ingrained in all schools, but teachers have enough work on their hands and society is a bit too concerned about injury and liability. I guess it is up to us to step in and coach/manage and for us all to be a bit more laissez faire about our kids.

  • Comment number 62.

    Johnson has to go. He just makes too many selection errors, not least in picking the wrong coaches. Andrew is a waste of space and also needs axing. Then from the top down we need ambitious aggressive management and coaching. The exec's must be able to run big businesses and the coaches have track records as coaches. Mallet is miles above any other contender and I'd trust him to pick his own specialist coaching team. The most important ingredients of all though are (in this order) honesty in admitting we were a joke in NZ, anger at the fact we left there in shame, determination from all that we will be the best team in the world in 4 years time. Ambition is the missing link in England. If that means axing the gravy train for the so called 'elite' players to focus a few minds then so be it.

  • Comment number 63.

    Panama and Anglo

    Thanks for the encouragement and info. A full season of rugby with the school team and weekend football would be the ideal arrangement. 'injury and liability' - shame that the threat of compensation claims has to get in the way of a good old fashioned biff, don't you think?

 

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